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Friday, June 06, 2003

Rant. Ignore.

For those of you who use E-Trade, aside from offering my general condolences (I rather dislike them myself--they're an unfortunate legacy of my Megacorp days, like United Airlines), you may want to check your recent statements carefully. It's rather hard to keep track of their accounting since it's a mess the way they bobble everything around between cash and the sweep accounts, but I keep my own records on the side and the bottom line always adds up somehow. Except this month. So I traced through the transactions and found a place where money was being moved from my sweep account to cash for no apparent reason, and then somewhat later this cash just ceased to be in my account with no record of it actually being removed. Quite a shell game! The original sale was just listed as a "redemption" of shares from the sweep account, as if I had gone and sold it or something. But I never touch that account.

I called them and was assured what I was seeing was just "double-entry bookkeeping", and while the fellow couldn't actually explain it to me, he seemed convinced it was perfectly normal. I mean, like I say, their statements are full of this kind of stuff. So I said ok, and went back and tried once again to figure out what could possibly explain it, but eventually gave up and called them back, and this time they put me on hold for a very long time and then came back and told me that they think maybe the dividends they were paying me were being charged to my own account. Twice. That is, any time a stock I hold with them paid me a dividend of, say, $1, they were paying me the $1, and then later charging me $2 to cover it. Interesting definition of double entry bookkeeping.

[This just in: they're "aware of the problem" and it is happening to other people and will be corrected soon. Note that the actual anomalous charge was levied over a month ago... Wouldn't you think they'd, like, send out notices to their customer service reps about this kind of stuff?]

As long as I'm ranting about financial institutions, I have a bit of bad news about my previously favorite bank, Washington Mutual. Last time I went in, their exceptionally good customer service was nonetheless running exceptionally slow, and the lady was cursing at the screen a lot (in bank teller curses: "oops" "oh darn" "uh oh" "oh foo"). After about half an hour (not kidding -- Reichart* was waiting for me and can attest), she said "Gah, under the old system this would have taken about two minutes! Now it's a mess, everything takes more steps and is poorly organized, if you forget anything you have to start over, and it even crashes now. I hate XP!" Doh! My bank has switched to Microsoft. Next thing, the subtle stress and anxiety this introduces into the system is going to slowly evolve the friendly Wamu customer service people into the same bitter and snippy pool from which B of A draws its tellers, and I will have to find another bank.

I hope I'm only kidding.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com